O-Line Eager For First Test

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Mitch Petrus knows what everyone is thinking: The offensive line must be pretty optimistic after its performance in the season opener.

Not only did the group anchor an offense that piled up 591 yards and 48 points, it kept quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Tyler Wilson clean. No sacks allowed. An impressive feat for a line that watched its quarterbacks fall an alarming 46 times last season.

Petrus hasn't been celebrating any accomplishments, though.

"Obviously Missouri State played really hard, gave us their best shot,"

Petrus said. "But we're going to be facing a lot better defenses than that with the SEC — and especially Georgia."

Arkansas got off to a solid start in the trenches during its 48-10 win against the Bears on Sept. 5, but its offensive linemen have put the performance in perspective. To them, the season opener was merely a glimpse of what the group could look like this season.

The first true test comes Saturday night, when Arkansas (1-0) plays No. 23 Georgia (1-1, 1-0 in Southeastern Conference).

"It's SEC time now," center Seth Oxner said. "Georgia is nothing like Missouri State. We've got to be ready."

Priority No. 1 for the offensive line has been doing its part to help jump-start a run game that was so-so in the opener. The Razorbacks rushed for 144 yards, but struggled in short-yardage situations and are facing a Georgia defense that has been stingy against the run.

Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said Monday he has been impressed with the line's workmanlike approach in fixing the problem, though.

"Last week in practice our offensive line made great strides," Petrino said. "We improved on our technique. We improved on playing faster, coming off the ball. You could see our players with a sense of we need to get better at running the football."

Said offensive line coach Mike Summers: "They realize this is a big ballgame. They know that their intensity is going to have to pick up for us to be able to compete."

The Razorbacks haven't forgotten about pass protection, either.

A clean sheet didn't mean the Hogs were perfect. Petrus said quarterback Ryan Mallett was hit a few times and the line must do a better job of holding blocks on downfield pass plays.

Georgia hasn't been particularly strong in its pass rush so far this season, collecting two sacks against Oklahoma State and South Carolina. But Summers said his line must be prepared for an aggressive defense that will try to rattle Mallett and knock the offense out of rhythm.

"We know we're going to face stronger rushes as the season goes on and be tested more than we were," Summers said. "I feel like that's still a work in progress. They got an ‘A' on their first test."

Tackle Ray Dominguez agreed, saying the opener was a sign the line is moving in the right direction after last year's struggles.

But Dominguez also knows the Razorbacks will learn much more about the extent of its progress Saturday.

"We're really looking forward to these next upcoming games to see how we really are," Dominguez said.



Saturday's TICKET

No. 23 Georgia at Arkansas

KICKOFF: 6:45 p.m.

TV: ESPN

WHERE: Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville.

RECORDS: Georgia Bulldogs, 1-1; Arkansas Razorbacks, 1-0.

LAST TIME OUT: Georgia defeated South Carolina 41-37 on Saturday; Arkansas defeated Missouri State 48-10 on Sept. 5.

COACHES: Georgia, Mark Richt (89-23, ninth season); Arkansas, Bobby Petrino (6-7, second season, 47-16 overall, sixth season).

RADIO: KXIO-FM 106.9; KEZA-FM 107.9; KKEG-FM 92.1; KFPW-AM 1230; KQBK-FM 104.7; KHGG-AM 1580; KHGG-FM 103.1; KDYN-AM 1540; KDYN-FM 96.7; KTTG-FM 96.3; KFFK-AM 1390.

SERIES: Georgia leads 8-3 (with five straight wins, 3-0 in Fayetteville).

FIRST MEETING: Arkansas won 16-2 on Jan. 1, 1969, in the Sugar Bowl.

LAST MEETING: Georgia won 23-20 on Oct. 22, 2005, in Athens, Ga.

LAST ARKANSAS WIN: Arkansas won 20-10 on Oct. 2, 1993, in Athens, Ga.

LINE: Arkansas by 1.

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